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Remember: 1976 American Cup

For the second chapter of the Remember series we are going back to 1976, for the very first American Cup, which also happens to be one of the first major competitions of the gymnastics season. In their preparation for the upcoming 1976 Montreal Games, none others than legends Nadia Comăneci and Dan Grecu represented Romania at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Regardless of what one may think, the woman who would eventually win 5 Olympic, 2 World and 9 European titles was not completely unknown at the time. The gymnastics world was already familiar with Nadia’s name after she had swept (almost) the gold medals at the 1975 Skien European Championships. She won the All-around competition there and gold medals on every event except floor, where she placed second. Nadia went into this competition with the “No. 1 gymnast in the world” status and made sure she followed through by winning the event and giving the Olympics´ organizers a warning of what was to come: she scored her first 10 on floor, her last routine of the day. The scoring system was not able to show a 10 here either…

Her scores increased as she went from one routine to the next:

     

VT

UB

BB

FX

Nadia

9.90

9.90

9.95

10

The men´s competition was as interesting as the women´s, with gymnasts like Vladimir Markelov and Bart Conner among the competitors. If both these athletes were just beginning their careers, Dan Grecu was already an established gymnast and the current European and World Champion on rings. Like Nadia, he was also looking towards Montreal where he would eventually win the bronze medal on rings (while competing with an arm injury). Dan finished the competition in second place losing out to Bart on high bar in the last rotation. He needed a 9.40 to win but only received a 9.30 to tie for silver with Markelov.

His rings performance was, obviously, the highlight of his meet, scoring a 9.85:

A Romanian would eventually claim the title of the competition in 1988 when Marius Tobă won the event, while Nadia still stands as the only Romanian woman to win this.

Here is how Bart Conner, now Nadia’s husband, remembers their very first meeting for People Magazine. They were 18 and 14, respectively, at the time.

We both won and after the meet we stood together and raised these big silver cups. Some photographer said, ”Why don’t you lean down and give her a little kiss?” I did, and it ran in the paper the next day.

 Here are the results and the replay of part of the competition:

1976 American Cup, New York

Men’s All-Around

1. Bart Conner          USA        56.450

 2. Dan Grecu            ROU        56.350

     2. Vladimir Markelov    URS        56.350

Women’s All-Around

  1. Nadia Comaneci    ROU        39.750

 2. Kathy Howard        USA        38.100

  3. Elena Davydova      URS        36.850

This post is also available in: Romanian